Ethiopia has never been one State: Linguistic evidence

By Melaku T.

April 16 2008

Many animal and even plant species communicate with each other. Humans are not unique in this capability. However, human language is unique in being a symbolic communication system that is learned instead of biologically inherited.

If a people are isolated on islands or mountain valleys, language can change very slowly indeed. But it still changes. For example, in the highlands of Papua New Guinea are many dozens of languages, each quite different from its neighbors. But they are apparently the results of long-term isolation rather than mutual influence. The same has happened in Ethiopia there are as many as 100 languages. There are many people in Ethiopia who do not consider the Mursi, Bensahagul etc as Ethiopians if they see them on TV. There are several Ethnic groups in Ethiopia not known by Ethiopian parliamentarians or University graduates. This is mainly as a result of isolation of population.

Languages change, usually very slowly, sometimes very rapidly. There are many reasons a language might change. One obvious reason is interaction with other languages. If one tribe of people trades with another, they will pick up specific words and phrases for trade objects, for example. If a small but powerful tribe subdues a larger one, we find that the language of the elite often shows the influence of constant interaction with the majority, while the majority language imports vocabulary and speaking styles from the elite language. Often one or the other simply disappears, leaving behind a profoundly altered "victor." English is, in fact, an example of this: The Norman French of the conquerors has long disappeared, but not before changing Anglo-Saxon into, well, a highly Frenchified English. Similarly between Geez, Amharic, Tigrigna; Amharic and Afan Oromo etc. Amharic was imposed language about 500 years ago particularly the last 100 years without fully dominating the other languages. The formation of one Ethiopia with one language is aborted due to isolation of Ethnic groups, lack of transport, books, media technology and education etc.

However, the various ethnic groups have much in common. When we see it through wider perspective, at African or global level although we do not have common language despite Amharic is official language and there is no pidgin, we do have blood links, cultural beliefs, trade links we defended the enemy all together.

In every day life people often contrast just talking with getting things that ever happen to us or that we make happen are achieved by employing the tool of language. Wars have been ended, careers have been ruined and hearts have been broken because of what was said or written. The formal cultural acts marrying, naming, inaugurating and condemning to death are achieved through the use of language with language we do not only inform and promise we accuse, defend, lie, deny, order, and persuade. People use language in every day life to think and act together, to work successfully together, defense territory together, trade, share information accurately, learn from one another.

Thus current language based region approach implemented by EPRDF is better suited for the local population than the old Provincial (Kiflehager/Teklaygzat) classification of Ethiopian territory. Even in Eritrea fortunately the various Awrajas were classified Ethnically so they do not have to recreate like ours, giving them at face value less Ethnic or no Ethnic classification.

Hence EPRDF Ethnic federalism is the best way to classify regions and empower locals. However, we should facilitate also the process of our unity by speaking common language and common alphabets, common flag, economic integration and incorporation of Ethnic quota in regional administrative structure up to 30% will save the dissociation of regional states to seek independence, should be the criteria for United Ethiopian States.

Because the époque is to form large unions: African union, Arab union, European Union etc. A mall fish is eaten by a big fish easily. So let’s form bigger even think beyond the Ethiopian Union. Even if we join bigger unions like African union, the stronger united Ethiopia will have a better chance of development than each region acting separately.

Creation of one Ethiopia with many languages.

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